Friendly success just the beginning

England triumphed in their two friendly games against Romania and Austria, but the real work begins when they take on Croatia on the 13th June in Group D’s opening game.

Gareth Southgate has had to use the full complement of his 33 man squad, as he has been without seven key men who joined the squad late following their European commitments.

However, several players seized the opportunity that arose and have surely played their way into the manager’s thoughts just days before the tournament.

With that in mind, 101 takes a look at the three formations that Southgate could well field against the 2018 World Cup finalists and beyond.

4-2-3-1

The formation favoured in England’s second friendly match against Romania, the 4-2-3-1 seems an okay fit for the Three Lions. It is difficult to judge just how effective it would be due to the much-changed nature of the side that Southgate fielded at the Riverside Stadium.

Here are your #ThreeLions ready to take on Romania! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/GalbFQNuCf

— England (@England) June 6, 2021

However, the formation allows England to field four of their large attacking contingent, meaning that three players would be able to help support Harry Kane. Jack Grealish, who played a starring role in both friendly matches, would once again be deployed in the number 10 role, with any combination of Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling occupying the wide berths.

There would be a question in midfield however, largely hinging on the fitness of Jordan Henderson. The Liverpool midfielder completed 45 minutes of football against Romania, but it was his first game since February and his fitness remains in doubt for the opener.

In his stead, Jude Bellingham impressed on debut, whilst Kalvin Phillips is also in the frame to start alongside key man Declan Rice. With so much other attacking threat on the pitch, Southgate may well opt for the more defensively-minded and experienced Kalvin Phillips, although he would lose Bellingham’s immense ball-carrying ability if he were to do so.

4-3-3

The 4-3-3 appears to be the best way of fitting England’s considerable talent onto the pitch at one time. Mason Mount, who seems certain to start providing he is fit, would be the key man in this system, linking the defence and attack in the same way that he does for Chelsea.

Mason Mount – 2020-21 Crab Cake pic.twitter.com/CoYe3Wgoy5

— Scott “says soccer” Willis (@oh_that_crab) June 7, 2021

The third midfield spot remains up for grabs in theory, but it seems likely that given the calibre of opposition Southgate would choose the more defensively minded Phillips over Bellingham or even Foden.

Further forward, it would be a case of choosing one of Grealish or Foden for one of the wide berths, and perhaps a more tricky winger such as Sterling or Sancho for the other. Again, Harry Kane would lead the line.

There would remain doubts over the defensive solidity that a partnership of John Stones and Tyrone Mings could bring to the side, but the 4-3-3 on paper appears to be the most balanced England system.

5-2-3

Three (or five, depending on how you look at it) at the back was England’s calling card for the 2018 World Cup. For big occasions, it does appear to be the formation that Southgate reverts to, but how would it suit England’s current crop of players?

Well, for a start, much would revolve around Harry Maguire. The defender was a key part of the back three England fielded in Russia, but is a major doubt for Sunday’s fixture. This would leave Tyrone Mings favourite to start on the left of the defence, although Ben White could also be selected there.

A tenth English cap for Tyrone Mings while Jack Grealish earns his seventh #avfc #ThreeLions pic.twitter.com/zMNJHXootm

— Aston Villa Statto (@AVFCStatto) June 6, 2021

John Stones, who played in the middle at the 2018 finals, would resume his role, whilst Kyle Walker would slot into the right centre-back role.

Reece James or Kieran Trippier would fill the right wing-back berth, with Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell fighting it out on the opposite flank.

The 3 formations Southgate could opt for in Euro opener with Croatia

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JULY 11: Kieran Trippier of England celebrates with team mate Harry Kane after scoring his team’s first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Semi Final match between England and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 11, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Ahead of them, Declan Rice would again partner one of Jude Bellingham or Kalvin Phillips, while Mason Mount would be shifted out to the left side.

With Harry Kane guaranteed to start through the middle, it would be a straight shootout between England’s multitude of other attacking options for the right-wing spot.

Although it served its purpose at England’s last major tournament, the 5-2-3 system seems a little inadequate for England’s resources, as it would leave too many of their game-changers on the bench and force them to play an extra defender, where they already appear light.

However, with Croatia having already proven to be no pushovers at major tournaments, it may be the formation that Southgate opts for in the Three Lions’ opener.

 

Read more:

Chelsea and Man City’s respective roles in Super League formation revealed

Solskjaer & Sir Alex Ferguson respond to claims of Man United’s push for European Super League

 

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